Amy’s bright and colorful home is the sort of place that really draws you in. And Amy’s life sounds like it is high energy and exciting and fun. She and her husband and three boys live in Idaho and since Amy is an art instructor, there is art on every surface — I love it and I think you will too. Plus you’ll love hearing what Amy has to say. Welcome, Amy!

Hi friends! Welcome to my home. If you get easily overwhelmed by noise, please insert your earplugs now. My name is Amy. I live here with my bald, hilarious husband Patrick, and our three hyper little boys, Hayden (8), Miles (almost 6), and Theo (4). Our home started out as an extremely generic, beige-tastic, cookie-cutter house than we’ve transformed into a quirky, fun home with lots of color and ART!

I’m a dreamer and creative who is constantly brimming over with ideas that I have no idea how to execute. My husband, an amazing executer, gets to constantly listen to my never-ending schemes and weed out the ones that are too ridiculous, expensive, unachievable, or insane to pursue. And I push him to be more adventurous and creative in our goals and dreams. I think we make a pretty dang good team! (As long as I can keep from getting offended when my ideas get vetoed, haha!)

I am also an artist and an art teacher. I taught Jr High and High School art before my oldest was born, and now I do all kinds of artistic endeavors to grow my creative business: face painting, murals, custom art, etc.. I love the variety and freedom! I also teach art classes to kids, teens, and adults. Currently, I am working on my Signature Video Art Course for ages 10+, incorporating all I’ve learned in the past 10 years of teaching art! It’s full of real art knowledge and skills, as well as enough goofy/spazzy clips to keep it entertaining. My hobbies include: obsessing over home design, singing harmony, crazy dancing, and binge reading way too late into the night. Most of all I love people.

Patrick is from a small town near Vancouver, Washington. He works as a physical therapist. Also…he is good at everything. (Well, except growing hair.) He loves learning and picks up new things easily — it’s kind of maddening. Best of all, he willingly helps others. He’s athletic, he plays the piano and guitar, he’s smart, good at cooking, AND extremely handy!! (He re-built our van’s engine after I blew it up driving on a road trip, and he’s done most of the remodel work on our home himself!) I will never let him try making art, cause I have to have SOMETHING I can do better than him!

I first met Patrick while moving into a college apartment right after returning home from a church mission. For a year and a half, I’d spent every day wearing below-the-knee dresses and a missionary badge, serving people in need, teaching about Jesus, and DEFINITELY not dating. To say that I was awkward around guys my age is a HUGE understatement. Plus, I was in my senior year at my university — I worked as a tutor on campus, and I was busy finishing my degree, so I could go on to teach art and change the lives of countless misunderstood teens and tweens. So I wasn’t expecting to find my person.

The first time I met Patrick he didn’t make much of an impression on me, since I was busy lugging in my crap from the car into my new room. But he was super good friends with my roommate, so he ended up hanging out at our apartment every day.

Now, this is where it gets weird. He had been dating my roommate’s best friend before they both chose to go on church missions. So, now that he was back from his mission, and she was still on hers, hanging out with his girlfriend’s best friend was the safe and fun option while his girlfriend was still away. And I became friends with Patrick — he was just the nice bald guy who always hung out with my roomie.

Patrick and I were just friends. But after a month or two of hanging out, I noticed with surprise how often I was thinking about Patrick and hoping he’d come over. Soon after, I was shocked out of my mind when I realized my buddy Patrick — this guy who was barely taller than me and balder than bald — was not just my “buddy” at all. I was super falling for him. Like, I had it BAD. And, the tallest, hairiest guy could never have changed my mind because Patrick was so kind and funny and easy to talk to, and… just a person I knew I never wanted to be without. (Plus, his eyes were sooo gorgeous. HA!)  

It also didn’t hurt that he was smart and played BOTH the guitar and piano! (Um, yeah, double wooed.) I also appreciated that he didn’t play mind games like other boys had. He was straightforward and real. He was friendly to everyone, but didn’t flirt with every girl and lead them on like other guys I’d liked in the past.

Even thought I liked Patrick I didn’t know if it was okay to date him. Finally, after agony and sleepless nights, I confessed to my roommate. She laughed and laughed at me and replied, “Geez, it’s okay… it’s not like they’re engaged.” What a relief! She didn’t hate me and think I was a home-wrecking, girl-code-breaking jerk!

We eventually started dating. But, because he was my first actual boyfriend ever, and I still had some major anxiety to work through, he had to be really patient with me. The first time he held my hand, I was so scared, he actually sat there and held my balled-up fist. Haha! It took an hour for our first kiss, cause I kept saying “Let’s just forget about it, ok?!” Mind you, we had already said I love you and were planning on getting married — he wasn’t pushing me into something I didn’t want, but I was just horrified to kiss him. I mean, I was sure I would screw it up big time! The average middle schooler had more kissing experience than I did! Hahaha!!! But after our first kiss, I realized all the physical stuff is pretty dang fun! ;)

His patience paid off and eventually we did get married and started having our wonderful kids. Hayden (8) is an analytical, intellectual eight-year-old who is an amazing reader, gets in trouble constantly at school for being hyper and talkative, and is obsessed with art and creating. He takes piano lessons, and he begged me to never make him play soccer or t-ball again. He builds cardboard houses all over the floor of his room and hoards “art supplies” (aka cardboard junk) in his closet for all his next projects. His closet is always a hot and hideous mess. I love his intelligence, curiosity, and wit — he is legitimately fun to talk to! His “particular-ness” often results in him being critical and bossy, and he argues like a lawyer, which can really send my blood boiling. But, after he storms off fuming, I can usually calm him with a back scratch when he decides to come back out.

Miles (almost 6) is an adorably sweet, sensitive athletic little guy who loves any sport, wrestling, construction equipment, trucks, building, etc. He immediately notices whenever something is wrong with a family member, and either hugs them or smacks himself in the face till he can get them to laugh. He loves to cuddle and calls me his cutie. In his nightly prayers, he thanks Heavenly Father that “his momma and dadda are his cuties and that his brothers are his friends.” Oh my gosh, he melts my heart. He can really become emotional and whiny over very minor things and easily becomes overwhelmed with a task, like cleaning his room. I think he’s got a bit of the ADD focus issues I struggle with. As for art, he loves to draw! For 3 seconds tops.

Theo (4) is freaking hilarious and extremely strong-willed. He’s a determined kid who knows what he wants and will loudly ask for it on repeat till I fear I’m gonna lose my ever-lovin mind. He’s a performer at heart and sings all the day long, and constantly turns on Disney music on our computer, dances like mad, then after 20 seconds switches to another song. Over and over. He makes us laugh all the time, though he’s often offended that we don’t take his crazy declarations and ridiculous commands more seriously. One morning he woke me up early, his little face hovering above me, by whisper-commanding at me, “Momma, make me a cake.” (ummmm,…what?! No. It’s 6:00 am. Go out and let your momma sleep!) He loves to draw for hours. And he is exceptionally skilled at finding my hidden treats.

All three of my kids are loud. Kind people call them “lively” and “energetic”. When I’m hollering over their screaming, dragging them apart, and hauling them off to time-out, I may occasionally call them “a pack of psycho hyenas”. (…I’m working on it.) Since I was a hyper/talkative kid, and Patrick was the crazy, class clown, this is just karma coming at us with a vengeance. We’re basically doomed to get lots of teacher phone calls. But, we are never bored.

I adore my three boys, even though I never expected to be a momma of ALL boys. (I’ll admit I cried on the floor of my closet for about two days when I had my third ultrasound and found out I wasn’t having a girl, but of course I would never trade our youngest for anyone else. I mean, he’s our Theo!! He’s part of our family and we’d never be without him.) Perhaps growing up as a sister sandwiched between my two brothers prepared me well, cause bodily function stories are my favorite and I excel at making random sound effects to make them laugh their guts out.

Individually I enjoy the heck out of each of my boys. But, I have to admit, all three at the same time is absolutely a lot. Hahaha. I’m just being real. I get overwhelmed by the yelling and chaos and fighting and tattling and the NEVER-ENDING WRESTLING! Like, it’s violent drama all day long. I am still trying to deal with it every day, and to teach them to be good, kind people, to work hard, and for the love, listen to their momma!

We live in good old Idaho. Yes, there are more than just potato fields and potato farmers here. (I mean come on; my dad is a hay farmer. That’s way different.) And, while the rest of the state is very mountainous, we live in the Snake River Valley. I grew up running all over the fields and foothills around my parent’s house. My dad, who worked as a welding engineer and project manager at the Nuclear Site, would get home from work every day, have dinner with the family, then go out to run the farm that he and his brothers bought from his parents.

Being in the country and especially the hills are in my bones. The valley floor is full of green fields, and you can always hear the sounds of sprinklers spraying methodically in circles. Because south-eastern Idaho is considered “high desert” with a low annual precipitation, our crops, flowers, yards, etc. all have to be irrigated. We depend on the snowfall of our cold winters to fill our reservoirs.

Wherever it’s not planted and watered, you’ll see land covered with dry sagebrush and cheat grass. Which, ya know, isn’t the prettiest, but we don’t have to deal with many dreary rainy days. Which is great, since two rainy days in a row has me wrapped up in a blanket on the couch, scarfing carbs, and barking timeout orders at my fighting children who are cooped up in the house with me. (Rain here is cold and usually windy, so we don’t play in it.)

I’m from a small town called Shelley. It was a good place to grow up — a cute little town that holds a Spud Day celebration every year. A little further away is the bigger city of Idaho Falls, where I now live.

My neighborhood has a TON of little kids. They are always biking all over the place and running amuck. We are so glad to live in such a safe place! And, best of all, my oldest just climbs up a ladder to get over our fence every day, and when he climbs over, he’s in the elementary school yard! Which means: I’ve never waited in the school pick-up line.

We adore so many people in our neighborhood. We give Christmas goodies to each other, and we’ve hosted several backyard parties to meet new neighbors. One sweet neighbor brings us fresh, handmade tamales every Christmas. And, my next-door neighbor, who is the funniest human on the planet, turned out to be my third cousin!! What are the freaking odds??

Things I love about Idaho Falls: The Cookie Place. (Oh, sorry, I’m a bit of a cookie fiend, haha.) My actual favorite place in Idaho Falls is definitely the Greenbelt. Because we have to baby and coax trees to grow in this area, the banks of the irrigation canals and the huge Snake River are pretty much the greenest natural spots we have.

The Greenbelt is the area downtown where the Snake River flows through. It has tons of trees, grass, beautiful landscaping, cool artistic benches and statues, and a paved walking path that follows the length of the river and goes over the bridges for miles. We love to walk past the falls, which make hydro-power for the city, and throw rocks in the water.

In the summer, our city puts on a huge firework display on the 4th of July over the river. We always have several art festivals on the Greenbelt, including one exclusively for kids. We also have a Farmer’s market every Saturday. Nearby in the downtown area, are lots of shops and restaurants, as well as the gorgeous white Temple for my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormon).

A little ways down the river, is a beautiful Japanese garden and park — a tribute to our Sister city, Tokai-Murah, Japan. (I got to go for two weeks as an exchange student to stay with a family in Tokai when I was 14! One of the best experiences of my life.)

After my husband finished his physical therapy program, we lived in my parent’s basement for a few months while Patrick completed his last clinical in Idaho Falls. I was pregnant, in my first trimester with my third little boy, and I had the energy of a sloth with mono. (That was a hard pregnancy, especially since I had to give myself blood thinner shots twice a day.)

After he finished his clinical, Patrick was offered a job in Idaho Falls, so we decided to stay in the area and find a home. It was also a good spot for us to settle, because of the low cost of living and affordable home prices. We looked at many houses, but as soon as we walked into our home, knew we’d found the one. It was boring, beige, basic and dated, but it was roomy and there were lots of big windows!! (My number one requirement.) We bought our 5 bedroom/ 2 bathroom home for $174,000 on 1/3 of an acre.

We’ve worked so hard on our home. Patrick, with his amazing handy-man skills, finished our third bathroom in our basement and expanded our family room into some wasted space in the adjoining storage room for our TV and console cubby. I dreamed up all sorts of projects dealing with the aesthetics of our home, since the yellow-pine wood and dated look was not my vibe. I love things artsy and modern!

We had to work slowly through the 5 years we’ve lived here, doing each project as we had the money and time to tackle it. I love the look of minimalism, but I just can’t resist putting art EVERYWHERE in my home!! But, because of our budget, I made much of our artwork myself. Which was stinking fun — especially the murals! Someday, I hope to have the funds to buy lots of original art from artists I love!

It’s been a fun challenge to design each room, especially when we don’t have a huge a budget. We have plenty of Target, IKEA, Costco, Walmart, Ross, and thrift store items in our home. Occasionally, we’d splurge on something that would make a big impact, and save up for those splurges. Our dining room chandelier and our basement sectional were both splurges.

We’ve made quite a few things in our home, like our dining room table, which is a random old hospital door my dad had in his shop. After about a year of bringing it up, I finally convinced Patrick that we should turn it into our table. He did an amazing job and I LOVE it in our home!

We’ve also worked like crazy in the yards: we’ve added a large concrete patio in the backyard, installed a fire-pit, hired a company to put in curbing in both the back and front yards, added tons of flower beds and plants, expanded our concrete driveway, and built a fully-insulated shed that has electricity. It was so fun to host parties in our yard the past two summers after spending the previous 3 summers working constantly on yard projects.

Like every other family has experienced, this year has come with many changes since the pandemic began. My husband is currently doing most of his physical therapy work in assisted living facilities, so for several weeks, he wasn’t able to get in to do his job. When he was able to get back in to do therapy with his elderly patients, we felt the weight of that responsibility. We worried about accidentally exposing him to the virus since he worked every day with the most at-risk people in society.

We are lucky that our area hasn’t been hit too hard by the pandemic, and Idaho is now slowly phasing back into normal activity. We even got to go to one of our favorite restaurants last week to celebrate our late birthday dinners with my brother and his wife, since Patrick and I both had uneventful quarantine birthdays during April.

The beginning of quarantine was so scary to me. Staring down a long, un-ending stretch of isolated time with my three boys at home all day, definitely brought on some anxiety. I am used to taking my kids to stores, to the gym, the library, the park, to visit my parents, and playdates to keep them occupied. Typically, when they are at home a lot, they get bored and into mischief and fighting. Being out and about keeps us all happy. But, suddenly, that wasn’t an option!

I was fighting the mounting waves of panic for the first week of school closure — so many worries were overwhelming me. The news was so sad, with high numbers of deaths all over the world. I worried about my parents and in-laws staying healthy. The responsibility of my husband’s job and the people he works with made me paranoid — the thought of unknowingly passing the virus to my husband, then causing an outbreak in an assisting living facility scared me to death! And, I suddenly needed to teach school to my oldest, which was super intimidating, even for a person like me with a teaching degree!

Plus, I had two other little kiddos to keep occupied while trying to help my oldest with school work. And my younger two were already bouncing off the walls and wanting to go places and see friends!

I could feel my anxiety rising. I was scared that this isolation and daily kid overwhelm was going to send me spiraling down into depression and anxiety that I dealt with for about two years after my youngest was born. And, though I am now on an anti-anxiety med, which helps immensely, I knew that my old trigger of being isolated was about to get pretty intense during a quarantine. So, I made a proactive, offensive plan to: “Keep Amy Sane!”

I basically forced myself to do some kind of exercise most days, formed a Facebook momma quarantine group, as a safe place to talk about frustrations and share funny memes, and above all, lined up all kinds of creative projects to keep my anxious squirrel mind busy and my spirits up (sugar helped with that too, haha). I also went through drive-throughs a couple times a week and, I let it be ok for the boys to watch kids’ Netflix in the mornings while I slept in a bit more.

After a week or two, I abandoned my ambitious, detailed daily schedule for school and activities, and basically told the boys, if they did their job and cleaned their room, they could play outside. When Hayden got his homework done, he was free to play as well. As a reward for each of them finishing their tasks each day, they got a half an hour of the Wii that night.

When quarantine began, I  had to stop all of my art teaching. Several group classes I had set up were canceled after quarantine began. I had to postpone with my private art students. Plus, nobody was having birthday parties, therefore, no none was hiring a face painter. Tight budgets for many families meant people weren’t clamoring to buy my artwork, which I had to tell myself not to take personally. I was pretty discouraged and felt like a failure since I suddenly couldn’t earn any money, especially when my husband’s work had come to a standstill for a couple weeks. For several years, we’ve been aggressive in paying off my husband’s student loans, so it seemed like a major setback when COVID 19 started and we had to lower our monthly loan payment to something we could better afford.

But, I was able to take this time to design a website for myself! And, I’m making progress on my online art class, as well as exploring a few other online more affordable options for my art, like selling prints and tee-shirts with artwork! I also finished all of my lingering home projects that I never felt like I had time or energy to complete when I was teaching more in the evenings.

A silver lining was that Patrick and I could spend more fun time with our boys — bike rides and walks, family movie nights, wrestle mania, building with mag-formers, and reading books. I’ve loved the morning cuddle time with my boys, when they snuggle into bed with me. Sometimes, they just lay quietly and chat with me, which is so freaking precious and sweet, my heart aches! But, usually they “tickle tackle” and “boop” my nose a hundred times while I’m lying there, still dead tired from working on my website till 2 in the morning. (Or watching “Community” till 2 in the morning! Haha!)

Finding time for my own business and work has been a major challenge during quarantine, since I am mentally exhausted after a long day of schooling my oldest child while dealing with cooped up quarantined little kids.

One thing I have noticed is how much less stress I feel from not teaching little kid art classes in my own home. Usually I am teaching around my kitchen table, and it’s crowded and messy, and overwhelming. I don’t think I will go back to teaching group classes for kids in my home, because this has been such a nice break. I look forward to the day when I have a separate studio space to teach in, so it’s not in my kitchen.

Through this pandemic, I’m realizing that life is short. We gotta love our people, be kind to ourselves and others, and be brave! I don’t want to miss out on our goals because we were too scared to move forward.

I’ve LOVED the slower pace, and the cuddle time. Can we please never go back to rushed mornings?? I’d love school to start at 10:00 am from now on. Haha. Also, it feels so good not to have an overly busy, filled-to-the-brim schedule. I want to add activities back in very cautiously, so we can keep a lot of family time.

I hope my kids remember from this time that we enjoyed them. We laughed with them, we listened to their stories, we played music and danced, and we worked hard to make this place our own. I want them to remember the cuddles and the silliness and the heart-to-hearts.

I hope they forget the two years where I struggled deeply with depression. It hurts now to think back on how weary I was every day, and how I was just struggling to keep my head above water. I wasn’t fun or silly with them, I easily yelled or burst into tears when they fought or whined too much…every day I just tried to keep them and myself alive. That took my full mental and physical energy.

Oh, I am so grateful to look back and see how different life is now, being back to myself! I am such a happy, more present momma, rather than always feeling resentful for the constant grind and monotony of the daily tasks of motherhood. I also have energy and ambition for following my career goals and making art again, like this is my own personal renaissance! I freaking love working hard to chase my dreams.

My absolute favorite thing about living with my kids is talking to them. Oh my GOSH, the hilarious and cute and adorable things they say, and their cute little grammar errors and mispronunciations — I just can’t even handle it!! And their adorable laughs!! I DIE!!! I just have to squeeze them and kiss them till they protest and run away laughing while I pretend to be HIGHLY offended that they wiped my kiss off their cheek.

I just love hearing how they think and their takes on the world around them. It’s crazy that they are their own little humans and personalities! I already miss so many of the cute ways they said certain words or asked questions.

I wish someone had told me before I had kids, and that I had listened, that you absolutely aren’t a bad mom if you don’t enjoy every moment. If your baby is bawling, and your older kids are beating each other all day long, then your toddler poops his superhero undies, in my opinion, you are 100% correct not to enjoy that moment. Only a maniac would claim to enjoy that. 

Focus more on trying to drink in the beautiful, heart’s-about-to-burst moments as best you can — really savor those moments with your child. You’ll always be grateful to look back on those times. Try to see the best in each of your kiddos and point those things out to them as much as possible! They’ll need this reassurance that you still love AND like them, cause they’ll do plenty of obnoxious stuff that you have to haul them off to time out for every day.

If you pray, let them hear you pray for them and tell Heavenly Father how grateful you are that they are in your family. Every person needs to hear that they are needed and wanted by the people around them.

Also, I wish I’d been told that you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t LOVE every stage.  I always loved babysitting and playing with my nieces and nephews, so I thought being a mom would come easy. But, infants are just a whole new ball game. It’s okay if a certain stage isn’t your favorite. Just get through it and try to find those good moments to cherish. I always felt a huge weight off my shoulders when my baby got to six months, like, “Oh my gosh, we made it to half a year! And we’re both still alive!!”

I desperately wish someone would have told me — and that I would have believed them — that you aren’t a failure if you are struggling emotionally or mentally with motherhood. And go get some freaking help! You are a person too. You deserve to be able to feel joy, or at least feel okay!

When my oldest was born, he cried for weeks, day and night — and consequently so did I. My friends with new babies were “SO in love!” and I was just wondering, “What the crap have we done? This is the worst!” And then I’d feel so horribly guilty, and the thoughts became, “It can’t be my baby’s fault. I am the worst. Because I have no idea how to help my baby. I am a worthless mother.”

You are not a failure when things aren’t going as you hoped…we all have to adjust and move on. Most of all, I wish someone had told me to take care of your mental health and warning signs to look for. Your hormones are going crazy when you’re pregnant and post-partum, and you have many constant demands on your time. It can get overwhelming very fast.

If you are fantasizing about falling down the stairs so you can break your legs and spend a week in the hospital to JUST SLEEP while someone more capable takes care of your baby, you need some help. Even just a friend to listen to you so you can vent and cry, then hold your baby while you take a nap! My awesome mom saved me many times when I was so stupid-tired I couldn’t think straight.

Or, if you have clamoring little kids and you can’t stop dwelling on how much better off they would be with a different, or patient mom, and that everyone would be happier if you weren’t there, these thoughts are unsafe. YOU NEED HELP ASAP, so OPEN UP TO SOMEONE!! Tell a friend, open up to your spouse or your mom, or call your doctor. Even if your brain is telling you that you are weak and that you should be ashamed for feeling this way so keep it hidden, and how ungrateful you are, cause some people can’t even have kids and here you are lucky enough to have these beautiful children, and all you can think about is how hard this is? PLEASE KNOW that this isn’t the real you.

Fight like heck to get whatever you need to get better. For your kids and for YOU. Counseling, medication, a gym membership, a job, more time with adults, whatever you need to do. Try different things and see what helps. You have so much goodness — your family and the world need you!

When the sun comes out and your mental health is in a place that you can feel good again, life and mothering become joyful! Even on the hard days, you know that you have precious little souls and that YOU are their momma. You don’t have to have a perfect home or be the perfect mom, just love your kids.

——

Thank you, Amy. What an absolutely lovely home. It’s no secret that I think art is one of the most fun ways to give a home personality and substance and it’s so great to see a home with art everywhere. And it’s so easy to do. You can find affordable pieces from new, local artists (or paint your own if you’re creative that way) — there’s not need to wait for expensive gallery pieces.

I also really appreciated Amy talking about how not every parent loves every stage of parenting. As a dad I think I am a much better parent to tweens and teenagers than I was to toddlers. And I know some parents are amazing with babies and truly love that phase. It’s okay not to love it all.

What stages of parenting have been the best for you? Are there some that have been particularly challenging? Do you and your partner balance each other out that way?

SOURCES

Dining room chandelier

Living Room Lamp

Big Family Room Pillow


You can follow Amy on Instagram or on her website. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram too.

Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at features@designmom.com